Type: Mixed, Ice, 400 ft, 3 pitches, Grade IV
FA: John Bouchard, solo 12/18/71
Page Views: 29,978 total · 201/month
Shared By: Jay Knower on Nov 25, 2006
Admins: Jay Knower, M Sprague, lee hansche, Jeffrey LeCours, Jonathan Steitzer, Robert Hall

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The Black Dike is perhaps New England's most famous ice climb. For many a winter climber, an ascent of the Dike is a highlight of a season. From the parking lot, locate the obvious, sinuous line of ice up the deep cleft to the right of the Whitney Gilman Ridge. The Black Dike climbs this ice for three long pitches to the top of the cliff.

The approach is the same as for the WG Ridge, though expect it to take much longer if the talus is snow covered. At the WG Ridge, ascend the snowfield to the base of the ice. Belay here. Take your packs with you because the descent does not go back to the base.

Pitch one: This pitch is long, low angled, and sometimes lacking in protection. Climb thin ice, interspersed with snow patches, to a belay off of screws to the right of the famous (or infamous?) rock traverse.

Pitch two: The crux pitch. From the belay, climb up, place a screw, and head directly across the rock traverse. This traverse would be trivial without snow covering the ledges. However, the insecure dry tooling and snow-covered ledges make this traverse exciting. Sometimes, it's possible to bypass the traverse when ice forms straight down the runnel. This would require a lower belay station after pitch one, however.

After the traverse, head up on the ice runnel, past a fixed pin. Though it looks steep and ominous from the ground, this section offers pretty friendly climbing as it is possible to climb the ice, stem off the rock, chimney, or do a combination of the three. Belay off screws at a comfortable stance.

Pitch three: Climb up much thicker ice to the top of the cliff. This pitch tends to be much more moderate than the previous two.

At the top of the cliff, head up and left into the woods along a well traveled trail. This is the same descent for the WG Ridge.


Short screws, nuts, midsized cams, and maybe some pins.


Although rates WI 5, the Black Dike is a moderate ice climb over interesting and technically varied terrain. The first pitch is an easy, snowy slope that does not protect well. The second pitch involves a traverse up and left into the main tongue of ice that forms the upper section of the climb. In fat years, the ice comes down and the traverse is trivial. In thin condition, the traverse is more challenging. Once the ice is gained, the route moves up to ever thicker and broader flows. The third and final pitch ascends a couple of short vertical tiers. Feb 9, 2007
Jay Knower
Campton, NH
  5.6 WI4-5 M3
Jay Knower   Campton, NH  
  5.6 WI4-5 M3
Zach and Lee, I resubmitted the route description. I climbed it the other day. Freezing cold. Bitter wind. Brittle ice. It was awesome. Feb 11, 2007
lee hansche
goffstown, nh
lee hansche   goffstown, nh  
Thanks Jay, much better.... Now I gotta get up there sometime.... Feb 11, 2007
Artem Lebedev
Santa Monica, CA
5.6 WI3-4 M1-2 PG13
Artem Lebedev   Santa Monica, CA
5.6 WI3-4 M1-2 PG13
In fat conditions, like we encountered, it's barely WI4. There were two really vertical sections, both about 15 feet long (one right after rock traverse, and one on the second pitch). The rest of the climb is not more then 80 degrees - scary looking, but you put pro from good stances. It might be more demanding in thinner conditions, but what we saw was not “sustained WI4-5”. Mar 2, 2009
Kris Gorny

  5.6 WI4-5 M3
Kris Gorny    
  5.6 WI4-5 M3
Agree with Artem. We did it the day after you guys and the first pitch felt like WI2, second WI4-, third WI3. Very short rock traverse. Climbing Dike can really change depending on conditions. Four years ago it was much thinner and half of the second pitch was climbing on rock. Mar 4, 2009
bradley white
bradley white   Bend
I think you should understand why the WI5 rating was regarded. I placed a few of the pins on it in 83 on a really thin to no ice day with the temperature nearly at zero. The dike was rated WI5 because matured ice climbers didn't want the inexperienced WI3-4 climbers risking their lives on this climb. The weather can change in a 1/2 an hour from nice to severe. I do understand your rating I have climbed this route in three different forms but to let it go as a causal climb is a joke. A rattle snake is a casual snake until you come to close to it. What you might hear rattling on Cannon is your bones when things begin to go wrong. It might be casual on as particular day but in reality doing any climb on Cannon in the winter isn't casual and never will be. Casual approach to climbing on Cannon is asking for it to change your mind and quite possibly frostbite your toes and hands. my opinion or from the peanut gallery a peanut for you elephants to chew on. Aug 26, 2009
Jay Knower
Campton, NH
  5.6 WI4-5 M3
Jay Knower   Campton, NH  
  5.6 WI4-5 M3
bradley white wrote:A rattle snake is a casual snake until you come to close to it.
This is a such a good way to describe the Black Dike. Aug 27, 2009
john strand
southern colo
john strand   southern colo
A good description and by the way-Bouchard almost died on it sooooo............... Oct 28, 2009
Jeffrey Dunn    
Thanks for the historical perspective Bradley. Jan 25, 2012
Ryan Barber
Rumney, NH
Ryan Barber   Rumney, NH
Finally got on this classic last weekend. We were the first ones on route and arrived at the parking lot at 6:00 am (about a half an hour before the arrival from some Bostonian blokes). Perfect conditions. The chute on the second pitch I found very nice, and the final pitch beautiful. I hope to do it again soon. Feb 13, 2012
bradley white
bradley white   Bend
I would if I could (arthritis). I didn't intend on coming off as being scared of the dike. Pinning the second pitch was unethical to everyone in North Conway then. I kept it private. I would repeat the process today. I played it safe to my rules. That is how I related my fear that day to falling onto the rope. I didn't have much fear of falling. Pinning was just my discipline to security. I got to control my fall. They were hard to put in. Climbing without a rope I am expert but I have not done the dike. Dec 1, 2012
bradley white
bradley white   Bend
I was the little train that could today as I belayed Ryan Barber up it. The pins I placed, remarkably are okay. I put them in 28 years ago including the pins at third pitch belay. The third pitch was the crux today up a twelve foot chandelier. I fell off of the top of it seconding. Don't know why my left foot peeled off. Possibly weak ice because of previous dinner plating. No injury and I actually like it. It was my first fall up high and my second fall so far and the other fall I was seconding starting ice climbing, in 1981-2 winter.
now I am prepared for falling on the lead. I don't let my ailments get me down or keep me down. Whoever you are, you can do more than you think you can if your willing too do it. Yeah everywhere I hurt some now. So what? Go for it! Dec 14, 2012
Cool vid.

vimeo.com/56396005 Mar 27, 2013
Russ Keane
Asheville, NC
Russ Keane   Asheville, NC
I loved this climb. All it was cracked up to be... and worth the insanely long and hard approach. The descent is also brutal, but at least you can slide down the trail on your butt.

The climbing quality was superb. The second pitch was super fun, long, and interesting. The third pitch was also no joke. What a day. 3/7/15 Mar 10, 2015
Nick Goldsmith
Pomfret VT
Nick Goldsmith   Pomfret VT
Done many times. never needed pins. P3 can sometimes be the crux. it would be WI4- in super fat conditions but is often harder due to both conditions and abuse. P2 is usually R Rated but often it is X. anyone who does not believe this I would like to see you offer to take the falls..... Aug 1, 2015
Mark VanMiddlesworth
Boston, Massachusetts
Mark VanMiddlesworth   Boston, Massachusetts
Went up today and the snow was deeeep, but well bonded. Ice was quite interesting, thin and brittle.

I left one nomic without pick weights on the ground on the south side of the parking lot; if anyone finds it I’ll buy you a bunch of beer! I’m in Boston but can pick up wherever. Feb 10, 2018
Northeast Alpine Start
Conway, New Hampshire
Northeast Alpine Start   Conway, New Hampshire
Put together an almost 4000 word guide with tips and pics about this route... This is for those who want every bit of beta they can get. If you don't like spoilers, like where to find the best apres-climb beer this guide is not for you! northeastalpinestart.com/20… Jan 10, 2019